In my last three posts I have been examining the barriers to trade that could arise in the event of No Deal as a result of the UK Notifed Bodies’ loss of notified status. The European Commission announced in January 2018 that certificates issued by UK Notified Bodies will lose their validity immediately upon the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, in the absence of transitional arrangements. In part 3a, taking medical devices as an example, I looked at the efforts made by UK Notified Bodies to gain the required notifications in branches situated in EU-27 member states, so that existing certificates can be transferred across, and new certificates issued. I concluded that BSI, the largest of the four main UK medical device NBs, has probably largely completed this process. Lloyds Register and SGS UK have the process underway but not yet completed. I found no definite indication that Underwriters Laboratories are attempting to achieve notified status for medical devices in the EU-27. While some manufacturers may have taken action to migrate their certificates to other companies or organisations with notified status in the EU-27, the impression I have gained is that many have preferred to remain with their current notified body. If this is correct, then products certified by Lloyds Register, SGS UK and UL UK would, as things stand, lose access to the EU internal market immediately in the event of No Deal.
In part 3b, I drew attention to longstanding Commission guidance that certificates previously issued by a notified body would not immediately lose their validity if the body ceased operation; and in 3c, I detailed more specific guidance currently in operation to allow a grace period of up to a year in the medical device sector for ‘orphaned’ certificates of this sort. Arguably, therefore, the Commission’s decision with regard to Brexit is in contradiction to its own guidance, and to current practice in the EU.
Nevertheless, the decision has been taken, making it necessary to try to assess the consequences of it being put into effect in the event of No Deal. I will show in this and subsequent posts that a remarkably high proportion of medical device manufacturers worldwide, including within the EU-27, have employed UK NBs to certify their products.